Three challengers are running in the Democratic primary election for seats on the Union County Board of Commissioners, offering progressive voters an alternative in June.
They are LaTysha “Ty” Gaines of Linden, Travis Amaker of Roselle, and Janet Vera Reynolds of Westfield, and they are mounting a challenge while the Union County political establishment is largely in disarray.
Gaines comes to the race with political bona fides that make her a serious threat to the entrenched incumbents, including her candidacy for Linden City Council in 2016, when she came within 60 votes of unseating Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling with the backing of Mayor Derek Armstead.
Gaines is the Chief Operating Officer at Berkley College, a Trustee and Vice President of the Woodland Park Educational Foundation (WPEF), and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She was previously an adjunct professor and assistant registrar at Kean University.
Reynolds, a lifelong resident of Roselle and well-known in Westfield, was a member of the original 2010 Democrats for Change team, which launched Armstead into the office he now holds. She has been an account executive for large business accounts at Verizon, a company where she has been employed for 25 years.
Reynolds is also a former school board member, former president of a municipal planning board, community activist, and a youth mentor. She earned a BA in Psychology and is certified in Industrial Organizational Psychology.
As a candidate for Union County freeholder on the Democrats for Change team, Reynolds almost revolutionized the political scene in 2010. The insurgents earned about 47 percent of the primary election vote and came close to knocking off the entrenched insiders.
Amaker, with 15 years in government service that includes training security personnel for the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department and employment as a security officer at the Jersey City Board of Education, was a close contender for the Democratic nomination for Roselle Borough Council in the Fourth Ward last year.
An industrious worker who has had jobs since he was a teenager, Amaker was employed at On-Time Transportation as a mechanic assistant and as an assistant manager at Roselle Lanes while growing up in Roselle but still found time to play basketball with Roselle Recreation.
The owner of Zimps Entertainment, a catering business, Amaker is president of the 4th Ward Civic Association. His grandfather was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, and his father was the first African-American Mayor of Roselle.